The U.S. Marines Explained to Us When Fully Automatic Fire Is Needed in War
“America! Ahhhhh!” roars Chief Warrant Officer Christian Wade as he unloads with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle — and not with any of that wimpy “pew, pew, pew” slow and steady squeeze stuff. The 2nd Marine Division gunner goes full auto in his latest fact or fiction video, before pausing to ask: “Is that really necessary?”
The answer: Sometimes.
From 5, 30, and 80 meters, Wade and Cpl. Gerald Trado, an infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, take turns sending rounds down range in semi-automatic and fully automatic. In terms of accuracy, the results are mixed.
While shooting on automatic at the closest distance, the vast majority of rounds fired hit right on target, but as the Marines move further away, their shot placements start to veer off. By the time they’re at 80 meters, just the first two or three rounds are landing center mass, with the remainder trailing up and to the left. As for what Wade calls “aggressive semi-automatic” fire? Well, there’s fewer rounds but all are either dead center or in the T-box, which is what you expect when you have two infantry Marines on the range.
It’s no mystery why the video features the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. The Corps’ long-sought-after replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon is also expected to replace the majority of M4s for infantry Marines, Marine Corps Times reported in August. The rifle offers a shooter the ability to provide heavy suppressive fire, or accurate semi-auto fire, and outranges the M4 by 100 to 150 meters. Though as Wade points out in the video, just how accurate those rounds will be depends on what mode you’re firing in.
“So here’s the point,” Wade says. “There are some times when fully automatic fire is appropriate: up close and personal, very extremely violent engagements. But at some point when you regain fire superiority you might want to transition back over to aggressive semi-automatic fire.”
Automatic fire may be fun, hell it definitely is, there’s a time and place for it — close in, or when you need to send a lot of lead downrange to keep the bad guys’ heads down. And once that’s done, you can switch back to semi-automatic fire and finish the job.
James Clark is a staff writer for Task & Purpose. He is a former Marine combat correspondent and a veteran of the War in Afghanistan. You can reach him via email at [email protected]. Follow James Clark on Twitter@JamesWClark.
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Image: Flickr / Department of Defense